Having been a staple in Sony’s PlayStation catalog for more than two generations now, the recent release of Ratchet & Clank on PS4 hardly comes as a surprise. What is surprising is just how good the game is. The Ratchet & Clank games have been pretty hit and miss ever since the series’s PS2 heyday, where it was one of the console’s very best franchises. While series developer Insomniac Games released what is arguably the best Ratchet & Clank game in 2009 with A Crack In Time, recent years have been a bit of a letdown, with too many titles that broke away from the series’s tried and true gameplay fundamentals (All 4 One and Full Frontal Assault being prime examples).
Fortunately, 2016 looks like it could be the dawn of a new era for the spacefaring duo, with a feature film hitting theaters at the end of April and a new game for the PS4. While it would be easy to dismiss Ratchet & Clank as nothing more than a retread (it is a remake of the first game in the series, after all), this sells the game incredibly short. Ratchet & Clank is not only a welcome return to form for the series, it’s also arguably the PS4’s best exclusive game. Although Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End will likely supplant it when it releases in May, as of right now, Ratchet & Clank could be considered the console’s “killer app” for the following reasons.
10. It Shows That Franchises Can Avoid Stagnation
While your own mileage may vary, one thing that the new Ratchet & Clank does well is make gameplay that we’ve encountered countless times in the last decade and a half feel fresh. There have been over a dozen Ratchet & Clank games released since 2002 and while some have definitely been better than others, the series has for the most part avoided the pitfalls of many other long-running game franchises. Ratchet & Clank plays quite similarly to its predecessors and doesn’t rock the boat with much in the way of new ideas, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, a game can simply iterate on and evolve its gameplay mechanics, as straying too far from these central fundamentals can lead to its own set of problems. At the end of the day, Ratchet & Clank may feel familiar, but it also feels vibrant and novel, proving that some game concepts never get old .. or at least, age gracefully.
9. It’s Not As Niche As Bloodborne
Is Bloodborne a better game than Ratchet & Clank? Probably. From Software’s Gothic horror-themed action-RPG is definitely one of the best PS4 games released to date, but at the end of the day, it’s just not a system seller. Sure, some die hard Souls fans likely bought the console just so they could experience it, but most PS4 owners will likely never play it due to its niche appeal. Having exclusives such as Bloodborne is definitely a boon for the PS4, as it helps bolster the console’s library with quality games that can’t be played anywhere else, but a game such as Ratchet & Clank — which is much more accessible and does a better job of showing off the PS4’s capabilities — is arguably even more important. Ratchet & Clank may or may not be the better game, but it is definitely the better exclusive.
8. It’s Perfectly Priced
The fact that Ratchet & Clank is selling for 40 USD is something that Sony really should be promoting more, as this easily could have been a full-priced $60 game. Of course, a game’s price has little if any bearing on its quality, but when you can purchase what is arguably the PS4’s best exclusive title at two-thirds the price of most other newer games, it’s a point worth highlighting. A $40 price point is often equated with the term “budget title” but Ratchet & Clank looks and plays like a AAA experience. This is a potential system seller and technical demo that clocks in a respectable 10-12 hours of playtime the first run through, and has more than enough replay value to justify its asking price. If Ratchet & Clank proves successful, hopefully it will convince other publishers to consider releasing more games at this pricepoint.
7. It Might Be The Best ‘Movie Tie-In’ Game Ever
Believe it or not, there’s actually a honest to goodness Ratchet & Clank movie coming out at the end of the month. While it remains to be seen whether or not it will be any good, the movie can only benefit the game at this point, and vice versa. For one thing, Ratchet & Clank (the movie) is a family-friendly animated feature that will appeal to parents and younger children. The PS4 isn’t exactly a haven for great child-friendly games, but parents may actually consider picking the console up if they find out it’s the only home of their child’s new favorite animated duo’s game. Although Sony has had some fun going meta with their “the game based on the movie based on the game” descriptions, this is one of the only examples in recent memory where a movie tie-in game was not merely decent, but excellent, which is no small accomplishment.
6. It’s A Joyful Experience
It’s fitting that Ratchet & Clank was released on the same day as Dark Souls III, as the two games are night and day from each other in both tone and difficulty. Whereas Dark Souls is dark and punishingly difficult, Ratchet & Clank is light and fairly balanced. That’s not to say that one option is better than the other, as Dark Souls is arguably a more rewarding experience overall, but sometimes, a breezy game that is simply enjoyable to play is enough. In an era where a game’s relative merits are often dependent on how well it challenges a player’s skill level, Ratchet & Clank feels like a breath of fresh air. It won’t give you much in the way of challenge, but when it comes to games that simply allow you to unwind and enjoy them, there are few titles on the PS4 that can rival Ratchet & Clank.
5. It Doesn’t Have Much Competition
Most PS4 owners would readily admit that Sony’s lineup of exclusives has been less than stellar. Outside of Bloodborne and Until Dawn, the small pool of first party PS4 games have ranged from good (Infamous: Second Son, Killzone: Shadow Fall) to disappointing (The Order 1886) to just plain bad (Knack). Bloodborne and Until Dawn can realistically be considered better games than Ratchet & Clank, but neither are marquee titles that help draw in a wide range of consumers (heck, it was easy to forget that Until Dawn even existed last year with how little marketing Sony did for it). 2016 is shaping up to have the best first party lineup in the PS4’s short life span, with games like Uncharted 4 and Horizon: Zero Dawn sure to make quite a critical and commercial splash, and in many ways, Ratchet & Clank feels like the opening salvo of a stellar 2016 release schedule.
4. It Proves That There’s Still A Place For 3D Platformers
While every gaming company besides Nintendo has largely abandoned the 3D mascot platformer, Ratchet & Clank makes a pretty good case for why the genre deserves to stick around. If this game proves to be successful for Sony, I hope that it will bring about a renewed investment in platforming games. That being said, there are signs that a platforming renaissance may already be in the cards. Double Fine is currently working on a sequel to Psychonauhts, and the successful Kickstarter campaign for Yooka-Laylee, a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie, proves that there is still interest among gamers for this genre. Now, if Sony just so happens to “rediscover” the Jak and Daxter series, the ball can really start rolling.
3. It’s Arguably The Best Remake Ever Made
Sony is describing Ratchet & Clank as a “reimagining” of the 2002 original and while that’s an accurate description, it really does a disservice to the work that Insomniac put into it. Ratchet & Clank is a full-on remake of the original game, taking what worked in the PS2 era and putting a modern spin on it all. Even if you’ve played the 2002 original multiple times, the new game will surprise you, as there are numerous new planets, weapons, and characters. In many ways, Ratchet & Clank feels like a distillation of all the franchise’s best qualities, filtered through the lens of the original game.
While it would be a bit disappointing if Insomniac continues with this trend and “reimagines” other classics like Going Commando and Up Your Arsenal (and to be fair, those would certainly still be worth playing), Ratchet & Clank not only introduces the series to new fans who may have been too young or skipped out on the 2002 title, but also appeases old fans by simply being a great Ratchet & Clank game. To that end, it’s fair to say that this could very well be the best remaster in gaming history, or at the very least a blueprint of how to do one right (Square should definitely be taking notes for Final Fantasy 7 Remake).
2. It’s A Potential System Seller
It’s a shame that Sony doesn’t seem to be advertising Ratchet & Clank very aggressively because they very well might have a system seller on their hands. While the PS4 has sold enormously well without much in the way of must-have exclusives up to this point, this is a game that not only ties into an upcoming movie release, but also has the visual chops to help move systems. Not only that, but Ratchet & Clank is one of the best family-friendly games on PS4, which could go a long way in convincing parents to choose it over an Xbox One, Nintendo Wii U, or a tablet. Admittedly, first party exclusives aren’t as important as they used to be when it comes to convincing people to buy a console, but having a title like Ratchet & Clank rounding out its library certainly won’t hurt the PS4’s chances.
1. It Shows Off The PS4’s Hardware
If there’s a better looking game on PS4 available for purchase right now, we haven’t seen it. Ratchet & Clank is a visual treat, to the point where it feels like a Pixar movie in motion at times. I realize this is a pretty common refrain at this point, but it bears repeating nonetheless. The game is not only beautiful, with a wide array of colorful environments and creative character designs contributing to its overall high quality look, but it’s also impressive in terms of the level of detail.
There’s just so much imagination in every frame of Ratchet & Clank, from the way bolts (the game’s currency) constantly cascade in showers around Ratchet, to every single enemy having a different dance animation when affected by the Groovitron weapon. In short, Ratchet & Clank shows off the PS4’s capabilities better than almost any other game so far and Sony could very well move systems just by showing it to people.